Author Topic: Bias in BJCP judging?  (Read 4611 times)

Offline S. cerevisiae

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Bias in BJCP judging?
« on: March 01, 2014, 04:54:14 PM »
From what I witnessed today, I can honestly say that it is difficult for BCJP judges remain unbiased through an entire flight.  The lead judge has a huge amount of control on the final score of a beer, and his/her biases do impact a beer's final score.  For example, a lead judge with whom I worked in one flight definitely had a bias against beers that were bottled from a soda keg.   I witnessed another table score every beer in 8C lower than every beer in 9C (both styles were grouped into the same flight).  That situation is statistically impossible without bias. 
« Last Edit: March 01, 2014, 04:58:58 PM by S. cerevisiae »
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Offline dbeechum

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2014, 05:18:06 PM »
Even trained full time professionals are subjected to their internal biases. Volunteer judges who judge a few times per year don't stand a chance.

Although, I would disagree with your comment about the impossibility of every one of a substyle scoring lower than the other. I've had some flights where one substyle was absolutely mediocre at best and another where the worst beer was mediocre, so.. not impossible.
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Offline S. cerevisiae

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2014, 05:44:41 PM »
The crazy thing is that I asked to taste the beers in that flight.  A beer in 9C that reeked of ballpoint pen extract tang scored higher than a beer in 8C that was commercial quality.  The lead judge's justification was that the 8C beers were slightly malt forward.  This experience taught me that BCJP-sanctioned competition results should be taken with a grain of salt.  Anyone who has ever tasted a "real deal" English ESB on tap knows that "malt forward" is acceptable within the style. 
Mark V.

Just say "no" to yeast rinsing
https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=19850.msg252492#msg252492

Separate the National Homebrew Conference from the National Homebrew Competition

A pale ale losing points for being too pale is like a vicar being defrocked for being too godly. It is no wonder that beer judges get such a bad rap.  - Graham Wheeler

Offline Alewyfe

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2014, 06:23:07 PM »
Anytime you get one set of criteria and two humans to apply that criteria you will get 3 different opinions.

The best way to influence judging is to become one. I am a novice, but I have judged for a number of competitions and I have entered many more. You can look at your score sheets. The BJCP judges are always identified by their ID number. In many cases, it has not been the BJCP judge giving my beer the lowest score, but rather a non BJCP participant, and I know that they are not the lead.   I have also strongly disagreed with the score at a table where I was judging. I was allowed to present my argument and the lead judge altered his score to bring our table scores to within the 7 point requirement.

Judging is hard work. I personally do not enjoy it. 98% of the judges I've worked with take the job VERY seriously, work hard and try to render helpful, fair and objective scoresheets. You may have met one of the 2%, I don't know, but don't condemn the process based on this one experience. Get more involved.
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Offline MDixon

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2014, 08:30:08 PM »
So one competition, a single judge out of 8,000, and you can pass judgement on the judging skills other 7,999?
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Offline udubdawg

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2014, 08:48:12 PM »
From what I witnessed today, I can honestly say that it is difficult for one BCJP judge to remain unbiased through an entire flight.   I witnessed another table where the judges believed all of the 9C entries were better than the 8C entries.  I didn't agree with them.

you said some other stuff, but that's what I took from your post.

Offline S. cerevisiae

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2014, 10:12:23 PM »
you said some other stuff, but that's what I took from your post.

No, it gets worse.  The BCJP judges at my table could not tell the difference between acetaldehyde and ethyl heptanoate (the condensation of ethanol and heptanoic acid). They flagged a really nice sweet smelling beer as suffering from acetaldehyde.   I said, "are you sure that you do not grape?"  That's when everyone at the table noticed it.  One said,"I smell Concord grape."  I said, "Bingo! You just smelled ethyl heptanoate."   Silence fell over the room because no one had heard of that ester.  Ethyl heptanaote is the ester that is used in artificial grape flavoring. Ethyl heptanoate smells like Concord grape or grape lollipop.    Many heirloom British yeast strains produce this ester.

With that said, the major problem that I have with this situation is that inexperienced brewers tend to take contest remarks as gospel.  Flagging ethyl heptanoate as acetaldehyde is a major faux pas that only confuses the entrant. 
« Last Edit: March 02, 2014, 07:19:18 AM by S. cerevisiae »
Mark V.

Just say "no" to yeast rinsing
https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=19850.msg252492#msg252492

Separate the National Homebrew Conference from the National Homebrew Competition

A pale ale losing points for being too pale is like a vicar being defrocked for being too godly. It is no wonder that beer judges get such a bad rap.  - Graham Wheeler

Offline Alewyfe

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2014, 11:53:57 PM »
you said some other stuff, but that's what I took from your post.

No, it gets worse.  The BCJP judges at my table could not tell the difference between acetaldehyde and ethyl heptanoate (the condensation ethanol and heptanoic acid). They flagged a really nice sweet smelling beer as suffering from acetaldehyde.   I said, "are you sure that you do not grape?"  That's when everyone at the table noticed it.  One said,"I smell Concord grape."  I said, "Bingo! You just smelled ethyl heptanoate."   Silence fell over the room because no one had heard of that ester.  Ethyl heptonaote is the ester that is used in artificial grape flavoring. Ethyl heptanoate smells like Concord grape or grape lollipop.    Many heirloom British yeast strains produce this ester.

With that said, the major problem that I have with this situation is that inexperienced brewers tend to take contest remarks as gospel.  Flagging ethyl heptanoate as acetaldehyde is a major faux pas that only confuses the entrant. 

Sounds like you had some very insightful knowledge to share. Like I said, get involved, or stay involved. You can help make the competitions in your area better.
Diane
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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2014, 12:03:21 AM »
Maybe in an ideal world there would be four judges. Drop the high, drop the low, and average the remaining two. Will need way more judges if this were to be the norm.

Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2014, 02:23:23 AM »
Like another system we're familiar with, its not perfect but it's the best we've got. I agree with jumping in, and I'm in the process of doing so myself. Personally, not to change anything but just to help and to learn.

Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2014, 05:08:27 AM »
The best in any endeavor can enlighten the worst.  I just hope that the learning is passed on as new experience are encountered.  I have considered going through BJCP, but don't  think I have the time and enough of a discerning palate for the job.  So thank you to the best and also thank you to the worst - may you meet and become better for the experience!
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Offline udubdawg

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2014, 06:57:33 AM »
The crazy thing is that I asked to taste the beers in that flight.  A beer in 9C that reeked of ballpoint pen extract tang scored higher than a beer in 8C that was commercial quality.  The lead judge's justification was that the 8C beers were slightly malt forward.  This experience taught me that BCJP-sanctioned competition results should be taken with a grain of salt.  Anyone who has ever tasted a "real deal" English ESB on tap knows that "malt forward" is acceptable within the style.

you seem to know a lot.  but you didn't already know this bolded part?

Judges do their best.  None of us know everything.  I struggle detecting low levels of acetaldehyde and sometimes DMS.  I'm hyper sensitive to diacetyl.  And I'm still a pretty decent judge.
And maybe "silence fell over the room" because they were waiting for further explanation from someone they thought they could learn something from?  Or perhaps the "this is what it is, period" tone made them not want to reply?

No, it gets worse. ...... a major faux pas

yeah we're gonna have to disagree on the seriousness of what happened...

With that said, the major problem that I have with this situation is that inexperienced brewers tend to take contest remarks as gospel.

IMO your comments have an "I was right and they were wrong" tone.  Since you've also lumped all judges in together with your comments, perhaps you could offer some feedback to address the issues you believe exist.  If I were a new brewer, not a judge, and took your comments "as gospel" I'd likely come to the conclusion that BJCP judges were worthless and we should blow up the judging process.  So, what should be done?

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Offline braufessor

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2014, 07:54:14 AM »
you said some other stuff, but that's what I took from your post.

No, it gets worse.  The BCJP judges at my table could not tell the difference between acetaldehyde and ethyl heptanoate (the condensation of ethanol and heptanoic acid). They flagged a really nice sweet smelling beer as suffering from acetaldehyde.   I said, "are you sure that you do not grape?"  That's when everyone at the table noticed it.  One said,"I smell Concord grape."  I said, "Bingo! You just smelled ethyl heptanoate."   Silence fell over the room because no one had heard of that ester.  Ethyl heptanaote is the ester that is used in artificial grape flavoring. Ethyl heptanoate smells like Concord grape or grape lollipop.    Many heirloom British yeast strains produce this ester.

With that said, the major problem that I have with this situation is that inexperienced brewers tend to take contest remarks as gospel.  Flagging ethyl heptanoate as acetaldehyde is a major faux pas that only confuses the entrant.

It sounds like you are quite knowledgeable about ester identification - which is awesome.  That said - I don't think it is a MAJOR faux pas to be unable to flag ethyl heptanoate and its prominence in heirloom british ale yeasts....  Christ, I have never even heard of it. I brew british beers all the time - good ones.  It is certainly a great bit of knowledge to learn about - but, I think you are going to far with this.  Why would everyone be expected to know this?

These people are VOLUNTEERS.  This is a HOBBY.  I would fully expect the people judging my beers to be learning as well.  I would hope that judges would do their best, continue to learn (like in this situation) and offer as constructive a criticism as the can at their current level of knowledge. 

Anyone who enters a beer here and there and expects definitive feedback off of a single entry is doing it wrong.  If beginner brewers are taking 1 set of sheets as "gospel" they need to be told that they are not going to get what they are looking for.  If someone really wants some in-depth feedback and troubleshooting on a beer for the purpose of modifying recipe's/process, etc.  - they better be sending that beer into 3-5 competitions for sure.  In my experience, that is how you get consistent criticisms to rise to the top and rule out what might be a single, individual perception.

In my experience over the past couple years, I would say about 25% of the feedback I get is extraordinarily helpful.  About 50% of it provides one or two valuable things I can take away/or combine with other feedback to make a difference in my beer.  About 25% is not that helpful.  That breakdown makes it all about 100% more helpful than having friends and family say "ooooohhhhh, this is good."

Thanks to all the BJCP judges who DONATE their time - even the beginners who are still learning as they go.  I appreciate it and it has made my beer a lot better.  Hope to join the ranks in the next year or so.

Offline duboman

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2014, 08:13:56 AM »
I am not a judge but knowing several I know that it is a tough job tasting beer all day, or in some cases over several days. Some samples tremendous and some are down right nasty.

I think the judges, whether they are nationally ranked or just getting started, do their very best to fairly evaluate each and every beer, but yes, regardless of what score you get or comments you receive, take it for what it's worth-an opinion.

In the end, if you like your beer and are proud of it then enjoy it! Take the feedback you receive and apply the parts that you think could improve the beer and forget about the comments you might not agree with. I also find that when possible, enter the same beer in several comps to get a better overall feel of the beer.

It is also important to provide feedback to the judges on their evaluations. I have emailed several judges from various comps to get a better understanding of their comments and attach their score sheets so they can remember what they wrote as well, even if they don't recall the specific beer. For example: In my most recent comp my ESB received a 35 which I was happy with. The problem though was after reading one judges comments I found that his understanding of the style was lacking. Each thing I got dinged for is clearly stated in the guidelines as being true to style and more than acceptable. In a polite manner I emailed him a copy of the sheet and a suggestion that he re-read the style guideline so that he can improve his understanding and improve his judging knowledge. This was a "recognized" judge and his score brought my average down.

Judges are constantly learning their trade just like brewers. They take the time to volunteer but I also believe that as a brewer it is my right to provide them feedback as well, both positive and negative so they too can improve their trade.

As previously mentioned, you are dealing with the personal abilities of each judge to properly sample your beer and each person's ability to note certain characteristics will be different. Each person's threshold of taste will be different. I can easily detect most general flaws in a beer but when it comes to discerning the nuances of certain hops or malt profiles I fall short. In many cases I can even tell  you what yeast was used in a beer while others can't, every one has strengths and weaknesses. It is unfair to lump all judges together and call them biased.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Bias in BJCP judging?
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2014, 08:54:34 AM »
+1 duboman.  Well said.
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